Deciding what to insert with the sales letter in your DM package


by Robert W. Bly


When creating a DM package selling a newsletter subscription, you know you’re going to have an outer envelope, a sales letter, an order form, and a business reply envelope. But what else? Should you use a sample issue or specimen issue? Or is a sales brochure better? Here are the options available and guidelines for selecting the right one for your package and your product:


·        Sample issue. Use a sample issue when there is something inherently appealing about the format of the newsletter itself. One example is Communication Briefings, whose presentation of bite-size tidbits of information can only be communicated effectively with a sample issue. Likewise, the major advantage of Bits & Pieces -- the fact that it fits easily in a shirt pocket -- is best demonstrated with a sample.

·        Specimen issue. A “specimen” issue is a sample issue that is not the actual newsletter from any particular month, but rather a sample composite assembled from articles taken from multiple monthly issues. You can use an actual issue as your sample if you have an issue with broad, strong, almost universal appeal to the entire base of potential subscribers. Avoid using actual issues whose main cover story or theme is of interest only to a limited portion of the potential subscriber base; in such cases, a specimen is preferable.

·        Full-size brochure. The full-size brochure is an 11 X 17-inch sheet folded to form four pages. Use a full-size brochure when you want to reprint sample pages from the newsletter large enough to be readable; call-outs can indicate the unique editorial features contained on each page. A full-size brochure is also useful for illustrating multimedia products; e.g., a loose-leaf service with multiple components such as a binder, tabs, supplements, special inserts, and a CD-ROM.

·        Slim jim brochure. A slim jim brochure is typically an 8 1/2 X 11-inch sheet of paper folded twice to form six panels. You can also use an 8 1/2 X 14-inch sheet folded three times to form eight panels. Use the slim-jim when there is a limited amount to say or illustrate beyond what is already included in your sales letter. 

·        Premium sheet. A premium sheet is typically an 8 1/2 X 11-inch sheet of paper printed on one or both sides. It is used to highlight premiums and their contents, although other information, such as an editor’s bio, may also be included. Premium sheets are used when there are multiple premiums (usually three or more) that need to be pictured and described in some detail.

·        Buck slip. A buck slip is typically a 4 X 9-inch sheet of paper printed on one side. Buck slips are used to highlight premiums. They work best when you have only a few premiums (three or fewer) that need minimal copy to describe.

·        Lift letter. The lift letter is a second letter inserted with the package, usually Monarch size. It can be used either to reinforce a point made in the main sales letter, or introduce an additional selling point or supporting sales information not included elsewhere in the package.




            Robert W. Bly is a freelance direct mail copywriter whose clients include Agora Publishing, Phillips, KCI, Rentrop, Georgetown, Institutional Investor, McGraw-Hill, and Medical Economics. He can be reached by phone at 201-385-1220 or via e-mail at His latest book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing, to be published in September by Macmillan.